In Erasmus’ 16th Century book ‘In Praise of Folly’ he said that he only believed people saw him as a genius (he was thought at the time to be one of the cleverest people alive) because he was willing to laugh at himself. He didn’t consider himself a genius. He felt he was full of idiocy: and as we all know...there’s a fine line between madness and genius.
Erasmus believed none of us really know what we are doing in life. We just DO, then we react and analyse. Then do again. Action, reflection, action, reflection. Some patterns will stick and we will realise they give us either one of 2 benefits: they help us survive and live better, or they provide us some reward.
Friedrich Nietzsche noted, on Maxim 34 in his 1889 introduction to his philosophy ’Twilight of the Idols’, that “only thoughts reached by walking have value”, with him believing that “the sedentary life is the very sin against the Holy Spirit”. Nietzsche loved long walks. He found philosophical thoughts flowed better that way. When we get up and do things, we force the brain to experience new things - or new ways of looking at old things. Our brains are always striving for new, more efficient, connections to things - via sensory stimulation and unfolding emotions from them.
The more we get up and do, the more we tap into the ways our ancestors learned, before books and digital media. Our brains have not changed much in 40,000 years, but the World (and all its distractions) certainly has. Simply getting on your feet and focusing your curiosities on a subject, outside the classroom, can help your mind slow down and form new connections to your subject. New connections can spark new understanding and meaning, and that's where the never ending joy of lifelong learning unfolds.
Solitude is extremely important in all this. Solitude doesn’t mean having to disconnect fully from people and go and live as a hermit in the misty Chinese Zhongnan mountains. But it does mean disconnecting from technology and the sedentary lifestyle it provokes. It does mean letting your mind procrastinate and wander, ideally with a key idea in front of you that you know you need to learn. Solitude allows the frequency of your brain to slow down, to declutter, and to connect those ideas to the living and natural world.
You can find solitude in your 20-30 minutes of learning. Why not take a 20 minute walk with some revision flash cards in your pocket? Why not take a hike with 5 key questions you want to find answers to, written on a piece of paper? Why not take a maths equation that needs solving and use the forest around you to draw and lay out the numbers on the floor as you speak it out loud?
If you allow your mind to immerse itself in a single idea, without the temptation of an Insta or Snapchat notification pulling you instantly away (studies show it can take up to 15 minutes to bring your focus back to the thing in front of you, with even one quick check of your phone’s latest ping) you will be surprised how much your brain will strive to understand something. If it does that, you’ll find it forms a powerful memory, which won’t get lost in time as it’ll be bonded into a sensory, motion-filled experience where you feel your footsteps and hear your own voice. Those neural ties are hard to break. You might not even be able to forget it if you try.
Memory is the residue of thought”, so to create those 'sticky' connections in your brain, get up and do. Actors, singers and rappers learn by repeatedly saying their lines out loud. Not sat down - but on their feet. Rehearsing it. The world's most famous rapper, Jay Z, said in an interview in 2008 that he hadn't written down a single rap lyric in over a decade, since his debut album Reasonable Doubt - released in 1996. His songs contain tens of thousands of lyrics in sync with a beat. He highlights how things aren't spontaneous - he "thinks things through". His key areas are organised, then he immerses himself in a beat and words fall into place. They cement in his mind through endless repetition of those lyrics. Not just in the studio - but in his kitchen, in his car, when he walks his wife Beyonce's dogs through New York.
In other words, he revises them, endlessly, with emotion and imagery. Words are said out loud, with gestures and music. Composing in his mind powerful unfolding imagery, a four minute story. He learns through immersion into complete musical solitude. He doesn’t think: he gets up and just does. When he is then faced with a live audience, he teaches them what he has taught himself thousands of times. They are in awe, repeating his words back to him: a beautiful symbiotic learning relationship where everyone is the teacher.
If you teach something to someone, you are 16 times more likely to remember it as opposed to just reading it. Whether you rap, you philosophise, or you accidentally make an idiot out of yourself repeatedly with others calling you a genius - just get up. Just express it. Just repeat. Just reflect. Just do it.
Moj Taylor is an Edinburgh Fringe First winning actor, and stand up comedian. He was selected for the BBC's Stand Up If You Dare competition for new comics. He was the first Taylor of his family to graduate a higher education course, reading Hispanic Studies & Drama from Queen Mary University of London before undertaking an MA in Acting at Drama Centre London (UAL) and has since delivered over 3000 workshops to teenagers across the UK via Push and ComedyClub4Kids. He is also a proud ambassador for the charity Freedom from Abuse, running Caught for Court presentations to 1,000s of children and teenagers on the dangers of county lines gangs, knife and drug crime and the realities of prison life.
This section will not be visible in live published website. Below are your current settings:
Current Number Of Columns are = 1
Expand Posts Area =
Gap/Space Between Posts = 15px
Blog Post Style = card
Use of custom card colors instead of default colors =
Blog Post Card Background Color = current color
Blog Post Card Shadow Color = current color
Blog Post Card Border Color = current color
Publish the website and visit your blog page to see the results
We're always interested to hear from talented young writers, so if you'd like to feature as a guest author then hit us up for more details.